Goldonna, LA Train and Truck Collision, Dec 1977


Goldonna, La. (UPI) - Explosive experts with chemical monitors searched for leaks today in the twisted wrecks of railroad cars that derailed and exploded, damaging one-third of this tiny community and killing two.
Firefighters fought flames which burned houses, stores and chemical laden tank cars, until early today.
The log truck and train collided Wednesday at a crossing in the center of Goldonna, a logging community of about 350 families. Eight people were injured in the explosion and fire, among them the driver of the log truck, CHARLES E. JONES, 40, of Dielson (sp.) La.
"It happened so fast," JONES said.
"I approached the track, saw the train coming, tried to stop and my truck just wouldn't stop."
Norm Fletcher, Natchitoches Parish civil defense director, said officials would begin moving the wreckage today after ensuring that danger of more explosions from chlorine, liquid petroleum gas and butane gas tanks had lessened.
"They want to take a real good look at these particular tank cars before they do too much more as far as lifting wreckage and determining what to do with those particular tank cars," Fletcher said. "Of course that will determine just when the some 200 people evacuated from the area can be returned to their homes."
Goldonna citizens evacuated to nearby churches and the Winnfield, La. High School for the night, were up at dawn pressing officials to allow them back into town to assess the damage to their homes, Fletcher said.
"It's a pretty desolate looking scene," he said. "Within 100 to 200 yards from the crossing where the accident occurred, all is burned - trees, grass and shrubbery and at least four family homes have been lost, several others have been badly damaged, one general store is a total loss and another was damaged."
He said residents will be kept away from the town until the tank cars are removed.
"The earliest estimate when they can come back is sometime tonight," Fletcher said.
The two dead men were H. D. RUSSELL of Shreveport, La., the train engineer, and ALBERT HARRIS, JR. of Alexandria, La., the brakeman.
The explosion hurled logs from the truck 200 yards from the site of the crash and the tires fires from the burning railroad cars were visible 15 miles away. State police said eight houses and one store in the hamlet were destroyed by the fire.
"There is a three-quarters of a mile to a mile radius of total destruction - just completely burned out," said KNGE-TV reporter Susan Allain, who flew over the scene. "I never saw such devastation. It was like a bomb hit."
Ed Hull, another reporter who flew over the scene, said logs were strewn about 200 yards by the impact. He said smoke was rising 1,500 feet into the air.

Las Cruces Sun-News New Mexico 1977-12-29